Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Back ache and bad moons.

Dear Evie,

I am a bad man.  A *terrible* Pop.  You are six months old as I write and so far I have seen you only THREE times!!  :(  I hate it that you are so far away, I wish I could see you every day.  I certainly think about you all the time.  So I have absolutely no excuse at all in not writing in this blog other than "I am really, really rubbish at writing in blogs."  I do have a blog which I have kept on and off (mostly off) for about 12 years, but I can't remember the last time I wrote in it.  I am going to have to keep chasing myself to write here for you.  The days slip by so quickly.  One day you will be grown up and I will be gone and I would really like to leave you something to remember me by.

So anyway, today I have a bad back (no idea why) and am stuck on the sofa so I am taking the opportunity to talk to you!

When you were born, Britain was a member of the European Union and had been since I was a kid.  The EU is a big money shuffling talking shop and was always verging on the edge of disaster, but it had successfully done what it set out to in the 1940's, which was to keep people talking (and not warring) in Europe.  I voted to remain but I wasn't surprised the vote went against me.

I think there were three main reasons we voted leave.  The EU has a lot of rules which countries have to abide by to be a member.  In *my* opinion, most of these were fair enough, like the human rights act, employment and environmental laws and so on.  But a lot of people in the UK felt it was too intrusive or that it somehow diminished them and us.  Personally, I remember when I was a kid and we couldn't swim in the rivers or the sea for the pollution and the number of people who died or were crippled in work related accidents and think that a little bit of diminishing is fair trade. As an artist I am very aware that most of the big cultural events and developments in my lifetime have been at least part funded by Europe.

There are another group of people who voted to leave not because they disliked Europe, but because the referendum was an opportunity to give the status quo a kick in the pants.  I don't know what *your* England is like, but right now there are places where people have to rely on food banks to feed their families, or who live in terrible conditions because landlords can get away with anything.  20% of us are disabled for some reason (I am one of this group) and the sick and disabled are being targeted by propaganda from the Right wing press and a government who are wanting to destroy the welfare system for ideological reasons.  The number of people who vote has dwindled and although abstention is a perfectly legitimate position in a democracy, politicians and  journalists have for a long time preferred to describe non-voters as lazy (I have been a non-voter in general and local elections for a while, but more of that later...)  So when they were given an opportunity to vote in a non-party referendum, a lot of people did.  More people in fact than have voted in a UK election since 1997.  I suspect a lot of people felt that when they were given the opportunity to shake things up, they had nothing invested in keeping things the same.  To be honest, at first *I* thought I would vote leave for exactly that reason.  I've felt for some years now that our political system is fatally flawed in that it is designed to protect the status quo.  When it came to it, though, I had more trust in European bureaucrats (and our ability to alter the way the EU operates) than I did that of the Westminster bubble.   That and I *detest* pretty much all of the people who were most vocally supporting the Leave campaign.

There was another group who voted leave, and these people are the worst of us.  Since the wretched referendum there has been a 54% rise in the number of race related hate crimes in the UK.  Hate crimes against disabled people had already risen by 200% since the Tory government began it's "austerity" policies and targeting us as responsible for the huge national welfare bill (we weren't, it was the pensioners but they mostly vote Tory and they had to blame someone...)  The day after the vote, I met a French woman in her sixties who had lived here in Shrewsbury for thirty years.  That morning, not three hours after the results had been announced, she was abused on the bus by three alleged adults.  They had overheard her saying to the driver she was on her way to the GP.  She was told to "go home, get out of our country, coming over here using OUR NHS." The poor woman was devastated.  A Facebook (social media) friend of mine, a distinguished American historian and author living in London was told to "go back where she came from" when she dared to express an opinion.  After the vote, especially on social media where people act too often like badly raised children, there has been a lot of anger.  Leave voters have often been cartooned as ignorant, selfish and racist.  That's stupid.  It is foolish to say that everyone who voted leave is a racist.  But it *IS* true to say that every bone headed bigot in the country now thinks they have a mandate for their hideous prejudices and that the rest of us are behind them.

The dice have been cast by our political betters. As of the time of writing they haven't stopped rolling so I have no idea what things will be like in even the next year or so, let alone for you!  When Liz told me the result the morning after the vote, my first thought was for you Evie.  What will your world be like?  Would you be denied the things which being in the EU granted you as a right?  Like freedom of travel from Scotland to the borders of Russia, or access to education in all of the European universities (if that's what you want!)?  It makes me angry and sad, but to be honest it is also a bit exciting.  The status quo HAS taken a kicking.  It was quite obvious that even the politicos running the Leave campaign didn't honestly think they would win.  They were playing some supposedly deep Westminster long game.  A few weeks later and they are all gone, resigned in the face of having to follow through on their (barmy) promises.  The Westminster Bubble is now seen for what it is, a soap bubble frail system which is mostly kept going by a mixture of tradition and political inertia among the people outside it.  Seeing that bubble popped appeals to the Anarchist ideologist in me, but it would get a LOT of people hurt, and as I am one of them that is a pretty scary thought!

Well, that's it for now.  I shall leave you on that cheery note and look for something *nicer* to write about next time!

I love you.


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